Episode 13 – “We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology” guest Doug Jackson

Episode 13 – “We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology” guest Doug Jackson

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Shownotes for Episode 13  Wine lovers have God to thank + guest Doug Jackson


First, I want to feature the book Doug and I wrote …

entitled Dog in the Gap because of a C.S. Lewis quote “Man and his dog close a gap in the universe”.

 

And there’s a BONUS EDITION with lots of goodies!
Read a sample here!


Will you fan the spark?

Inspired by how musician Amanda Palmer put it, “Don’t make people pay [for art]. Let them,” I am altering how Spark My Muse stays alive…from bottom to top (literally).

How does it work?

It’s up to you. I need at least $75 per episode to keep it solvent.
Every little bit helps!
So, I invite you to just listen, read, and give as you can.

 

Thank you! Enjoy the show!

With love,

~Lisa

WINE SEGMENT:

Who do we have to thank for wine?

God and the Church, actually.

Wine lovers in Western civilization have the Church in Europe (and the Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire–which was neither holy nor Roman ) to thank for the large-scale production, the prevalence and the excellence of wine!

Why? 

Because liturgy involving wine for communion was central to Christian religious practice. Wine was ingested as the saving holy blood of Christ (and bread as the holy body of Christ), usually each and every day. The sacraments of Communion served as saving grace afforded to the Church.

As Roman Empire became officially a Christian Empire (circa 313 CE) many vineyards had to be planted, properly cultivated, and harvested. Grapes had to be made into a lot of to support the daily practice of communion throughout the Empire.

Communion served as wine was the norm among Christians world-wide until recently–in the era of pasteurization. To keep juice from grapes in a state were they would not ferment meant it had to be sufficiently boiled so the natural yeast would die. 

Vehemently opposed to alcohol, Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician, dentist, and Methodist pastor from Vineyard, New Jersey, figured out the process in 1869 with Concord grapes. Most churches did not accept the switch as proper and stayed with wine.

The juice later became more popular during Victorian era because of prominent values of abstinence. A shift then began in the U.S. that made grape juice the main communion beverage (at least among certain Protestants sects).

Several hundred vineyards operating in Europe today can trace their history to monastic origins.

In the 9th-15th centuries almost 1,000 monasteries dotted Europe. They were centers of education, stability, and technical innovation. Monks and nuns could read and write–this was quite uncommon then.

Monasteries cared for the sick, helped the poor, created places of education, and invented Universities. They could not fund all this through donations. Surplus wine was sold to finance ministry work (and also beer, fruit brandies, and cheese, among many other things..even prayers and Salvation ..which–in hindsight–appears to have been a mistake ) .

So, basically, thank God (and many monks) for wine!


 

Sparking your muse

 Enjoy the fantastic chat with Doug Jackson!

Doug-Jackson

Douglas Jackson, D.Min.
Director of the Logsdon Seminary Graduate Program

Doug Jackson came to SCS in 2006, after serving as pastor of Second Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, since 1993. In addition to teaching courses, Dr. Jackson functions as a liaison between Logsdon Seminary and local churches in Corpus Christi. His areas of specialization include spiritual formation and pastoral ministry. Dr. Jackson has published and presented several articles and essays in religious and literary venues, including articles and lectures on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis.
• D.Min. – Truett Seminary (2006)
• M.Div. – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1985)
• B.A. – English Literature, Grand Canyon College (1982)

His blog is here.


 

Interview / chat notes:

 

MIN 8:00
on Doug preparing for a his Fall class.

A resource he is using by NT Wright – “The new perspective on Paul”
The covenant people God has saved.

8:50
Reformers and the necessary correction in contemporary times.

9:00
Confronting individualism
and thoughts on human flourishing.

9:50
on the idea of being “spiritual but not religious”

10:30
on his work about CS Lewis

Mere Christianity

11:00
The importance of imagination for understanding that isn’t covered by rationalism.

12:30
on his Oxford lecture
Owen Barfield an influential life-long friend of CS Lewis

Another lecture on Walter Miller – A Canticle for Leibowitz
Apologetic self-proclaimed validity on the rational scheme of knowing.

“Scholarship is about knowing more and more about less and less so that eventually you know everything about nothing.”

14:30
James Sire

15:70
Malcolm Guite https://www.facebook.com/malcolm.guite
Chaplain of Gerton college and Cambridge
“Faith Hope and Poetry”

He covers the imagination as a way of knowing (an epistemology).

Holly Ordway
Houston Baptist University
“Not God’s Type”

Her 2-track movement toward conversion

18:00
Brainpickings.com Maria Popova (an admitted secular atheist on a continual spiritual search)

19:00
on Spiritual atheism

….if we come up with a system that covers everything (Christians and Atheists alike)…

“Humans are sensitive and emotionally vulnerable to a wasteful degree evolutionarily speaking…highly valuing the arts.” (Lisa)

Christ in the Desert Benedictine Monk and Abbot
Philip Lawrence, New Mexico
…slipping in and out of atheism….

21:30
HG Wells, and the fundamentalist reaction to him and others of his ilk.

on how science and religious circles have had an absolute unwillingness to be in one another presence and (have not wanted) to admit any weaknesses and (instead) just shout louder.

22:20

“The best apologetics can do is make Christianity credible and I don’t think it can make it inevitable.”

 

22:30 “Any belief in any ideal is still a leap of faith for anyone… like Justice, Love, Hope…” (Lisa)

23:30
on How people appeal to a standard outside themselves. (CS Lewis)

24:00
Theories of “survival behavior value” for Morality and Justice kicks the can. or it lands on simple absurdity and meaninglessness where suicide becomes a valid option.

25:00

Doug answering the question….”Is fundamentalism evolving”?

26:00
Richard Foster’s classic over 50 years old “Celebration of Discipline”

27:20
A story of a crucial pivot point for Doug.

28:20
How the psalmists had to cry out to God when the answers didn’t suffice any longer. For us, this is a return more than a departure.”

“I have gained the gift of being able to respect other traditions and admire things they bring us, but I talk to people across that spectrum that have that experience.”

29:30

“We go from trusting our denominational address or theology address to trusting Christ but it doesn’t mean an abandonment of it. Choosing a room in the same house to live in.”

30:10
Spiritual disciplines most meaningful to him:
On solitude and privacy (the difference). Henri Nouwen explains the difference.
 Henri Nouwen explains in “Out of Solitude” 

Doug: Solitude is for battle. Privacy is to be alone.

31:00
Demons come in our solitude (Desert Fathers). The outcome is awareness and purification.

32:00
Wanting “the listening heart” (what Solomon really asked God for).
on the importance of listening to God…

33:30
My Stockholm syndrome at parties. (Lisa)

34:00

“(My) Inability to be with people was driven by a failure to have a real self.”

34:30
“you are nearer to me than my own self.” Augustine

Doug realized:

“My real Self can’t be with people because it’s threatened by them, because they’re going to colonize my Self and going to make me into something I’m not. As opposed to having a real Self that can listen because God is protecting that Self.”

Father Francis Kelly Nemeck wrote
The way of Spiritual Direction (his director)
…Doug and I discuss Detachment and Holy Indifference…

39:00
St John of the Cross
(Exploring the spiritually obscured times and darker emotions.)

“the nada” (God is “no thing” the silence before God

40:00
…on staying in the problems and not panicking.

41:00
…on the crucial lesson from his mom that revealed his theology

44:30
(unknowing) Apophetic theology

“John of the Cross didn’t want that we should abandon the metaphors but move through them.”

45:00

“We cannot encapsulate God in our Theology.”

(which is terrifying but life-giving)

46:00
[GOOD NEWS]
Further exploration in a future episode of John of the Cross with Doug coming soon!


 

If you enjoyed the show please give it a stellar review on iTunes here!

Watch for new episodes each Hump Day (Wednesday).

Humor Series: Funny to Whom?

funny-old-lady-smoking

Have you heard this one?

Three Humor Science researchers walk into a bar. ….um. Wait. That won’t work. Let me start over.

Get a scientist to talk about humor studies and you get a quick reminder of how science can squeeze the life out of anything.

Dissection is destructive. But no more!

It’s time to find out in a better way:

1. What do people find funny and why?

2. How can YOU become more humorously winsome?

3. How can science and an understanding of human nature and spirituality help us find out?

That’s what this series will be about, and I promise that it won’t be as dull as it’s been when scientists have the mic.

If it’s successful, a long form project will go a lot further and get a lot funnier. That’s up to you.


 

Here’s the story of how it all started:

A friend of mine asked me to speak at a senior residential home on the topic of community. No problem. I speak at plenty of places on plenty of topics. I wrote my bullet points and picked out an outfit…and then things went bad.

The problem?
I didn’t know she was billing me as “hilarious”.

I found that part out only a few days beforehand. I went into a quiet panic. The kind where your hands get clammy and your sweat smells like bad coffee. You run out of TUMS at times like this.

I’d planned on being friendly and informative, not uproarious. I was going to present material and involve them in cute bonding activities, not split their sides in gales of laughter. My friend had been walking around assuring residents that I was the funniest thing going.

Now what?

Maybe, I could stick a joke in there somewhere:

“Have you ever peed your pants laughing? What a silly question–you’re old people. You peed your pants getting out of bed today. Is bladder incontinence a laughing matter? …Depends.”

Depends is right. This wasn’t going to work.

What if they hated me?  Some of them are in chronic pain. Some are grouchy. Some have little patience for sassy youngsters. These people carry canes and some smell like pee.

I could get the beating of my life! And I would deserve it.


 

The terror of bombing at the place drove me to research the topic of humor scientifically.

My purpose was to help these folks have a good time, not offend them.

What resulted was a quest and many discoveries. I had to find out if funniness can be learned, if public speaking can be improved with a formula, if laughter can be predicted, and if old people laugh at jokes about physical deterioration and, if so, under what conditions.

Well, it turns out the last bit is sort of tricky. More on that in future material.

 

On getting funnier

My research dug up a very good find and it might help you too:

One of the ways almost anyone can get funnier to more people is to appear harmless more broadly.

Does that seem counter-intuitive?
Yes, there are foul-mouthed, raunchy comics aplenty and seem to get lots of laughs, but they are not typically funny to the greatest numbers of people compared to plenty of other things (pies in the face, mistaken identity antics, prat falls, kittens jumping in surprise), and there is a scientific reason why.

What more people (on average) actually find funny hinges on giving them something that is funny at a further comedic distance. This explains why Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, and Bill Cosby (before all that drugging women stuff was found out) have huge followings and continued success, and Roseanne Barr gets more annoying as time goes by.

 

What is Comedic Distance?

Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.

-Mel Brooks

In this quote, Mel Brooks underscores what humor researchers are finding empirically true. Distance matters a lot.

If your child falls off the playground slide and bangs himself up, it’s scary. If some man in a cowboy hat suddenly gets kicked in the crotch by an aggressive llama, it’s laughable.

The Kitten vs. Stern Proof

This is why videos of kittens doing silly things trump in spades the popularity of Howard Stern and his radio show antics. The hoards of memes, shares, and overall fans of funny kitten videos means that invariably, kittens kick Howard’s butt. Big time. Kittens won’t squash your dearly held values. Kittens won’t say something gross about bodily fluids. (Kittens are not funny to everyone, but they are funnier on the whole than a raunchy DJ or vulgar comedian. No contest.)

The difference between kittens and Howard Stern is this: Something “dangerous” isn’t personally threatening when kittens are involved.

Comedic distance (whether physical, chronological, or emotional) creates an amusing incident. The surprise pays off and people are thusly amused. If not, that you can get booed.

For me, I played off that my normal Thursday afternoons are spend with prison inmates and that I was REALLY happy for the upgrade.

I was then heckled by a woman who said,

“Don’t be so sure.” (She has it in for a few of her neighbors. It’s been ugly.)

To which I replied, “Well, you are all much better dressed.”

Resounding laughter. A win!


So, see if you can figure out why the photo above is funny (to most people)?

Answer:
The woman has made it to 100 years old and she’s done it her way.
Sure, smoking is dangerous, but apparently not much, in her case.

Having fun?

I hope you are enjoying this series.

Do you have questions about humor theory or getting funnier?
Let me know.

xo

-Lisa

Here are the previous articles in this series:

1. Finding things funny…from birth

2. Humor Studies: Step 1 – Tickle Rats

For the latest info on my humor related projects sign up here.

Are you using a GPS? (advice to communicators and startups)

We tend to think that we operate out of our values as if it’s like a default setting on a washing machine.

 

The truth is, at best, we are consistent at that stuff only sometimes. Not because we are horrid cads, but because we get busy.

If you are a person of faith or want to live from a set of important values, you can’t take this modus operandi for granted.

You have to do some groundwork. (I’ll get to specifics in a moment.)

First, the short story of Jackie will help us out.

taxes

Jackie is tax consultant. She had worked for a national brand firm in town and was striking it out on her own–almost by accident and not all at once.

It started when she kept noticing that some of her friends and family members didn’t know what they were doing. In a panic, usually at the end of March, they started asking her for help. Most of them didn’t know enough to get the best refund, and she heated the idea of that.

She picked up some side work, and within two tax seasons she had herself completely booked at tax time. About 20% of those clients needed accounting help throughout the year for their small business. She also found a few non profits clients too. She really needed help by the third year and had left her other job by then.

Like you would expect, she hired help and plunged into her work.

I didn’t put too much weight into the particulars of hiring. I was so busy with the details of getting the work done. So, the most important thing got steamrolled by the urgency of my work.

Things started going badly.

Out of the 3 part-time workers, only one of them actually had the same values as she did. She realized this too late and it created friction and a tense working environment. One person left and started bad-mouthing her in her small town. The other position seemed like a revolving door of employee turnover. She almost quit the whole thing. It was keeping her up a lot at night.

Jackie didn’t have Human Resources Training or organizational management training. She just had a bunch of work and she was good at those skills. She needed to clone herself.

It didn’t come to that, of course.

Fortunately, a mentor gave her some great advice. She said,

Back up a bit. Sit down and put your most important values and business aims down with ink on paper. It’ll work like a compass or GSP. It will help with both the route and destination.

It worked. Her commitment statements guided all her business decisions after that. Hiring, training, working with clients, getting new clients, and getting her little company running smoothly needed that solid foundation.

It’s a great lesson. If you aren’t using a GPS you’re going to get lost.

Before you take on side work. Before you hire someone. And most importantly, before you get busy, do the ground work so that your priorities and core guiding principles are something that flow out and throughout all your interactions, not get tacked on afterword.

If you value honesty, joy, compassion, and persistence, for instance, make them the anchor for all the skills you execute and all the projects you take on.

Have you initiated your GPS? Do you have your guiding principles on paper and operate from them?

I hope that was helpful.
Do you know someone who might need this advice?

Please share!

Shame and wanting to poking out your own eye

There’s a feeling you can get, after you’ve done something horrible. It’s so bad, that you might consider poking your own eye out (if for nothing else than a viable distraction.)

My first job (besides babysitting) was as a hostess at Eat’n Park Family Restaurant. A woman about 10  years older transferred there. She had been a waitress for a long time (even a decorated one. Yes, Eat’n Park is special like that.) She also had the name “Lisa,” just like me. That’s about all the ingredients needed for good communication and lasting friendship, right? um. No.
Background:
Sometimes I’d goof off and crack jokes in passing with Lisa. No big deal. (If you know me, this is all highly typical behavior.)
WELL-
One day, like a stoke of non genius, it came into my head to wisecrack when I noticed Lisa had a blue pen scribble on her forearm. I noticed it was actually a very sloppily rendered mark of her own name. The “L” was super long on the bottom, and not in a cursive way. It was just odd. It struck me as humorous. I already knew she had a 4 year old daughter. Her little girl had probably been playing with her waitressing pen and wrote out her mom’s name all by herself. Or maybe Lisa had done it–for a joke, or because she was bored. So, feeling my comic Einstein vibe coming on me (which is inversely proportionate to my rational thought and good judgment), I said–rather flippantly, I might ad–“Hey, what’s that on your arm? Is that so you don’t forget your name?”

Sudden. Dead. Powerful stare.
Awkward pause. I could hear a spider near the salad bar blink.
Then I noticed she had a sort of sad “How could you, you freaking jerk?” look on her tired face. (I picked up on that because I’m really good at feeling people out!)
It was a tattoo.
A horrible one.
A mistake.
Perhaps a drunk boyfriend or trashed stepdad scrawled it there. Who knows. But whatever the story was, it was part of a painful past. A past she did not want thrown in her face by some stupid and insensitive quip from a dumb teenager.
My heart froze with panic. It’s the kind of panic where you start to smell yourself. A cold sweat mustache erupts on your lip usually, too
.
Would she stab me with a steak knife?
Plan to burn me “accidentally” with a scrod entrée platter? (Wicked hot, they are!)
I fumbled around, and got out, “um… hahah… I’m just kidding.” I was trying desperately to appear nonchalant. I considered whistling a tune to prove it.
Still, she just looked at me–steadily.
“I’m sorry,” I said, getting up the nerve. It felt like a blanket of shame washed over me. Self-loathing–all over the place.
She shook it off, and went back to work. From then on I tried to be extraordinary nice to her, in every way I could think of. I bused her tables, and got her refreshing beverages, and tried to be as pleasant, and positive as I could. She didn’t hold it against me, beyond a day or so.
Once, after a 10p.m.-5 a.m. shift when my dad failed to pick me up, she even drove me home in her weary beater of a car.
I still wonder about her.
It was poke-your-eye-out shame.
I’ll never forget it.

Have you ever had “inner death by shame”? (you can just answer yes or no, unless you want to be brave and tell your story)

(Change the channel or take a walk?) "The Show About Me" (part 2)


One of the most common responses people have when they get fed up with the re-runs of living their own small show is that they try to flip to a different channel. That is, they somehow realize a kind of radical change in life is necessary, so they try to re-make themselves.

Perhaps they start a new relationship, change careers, adopt a baby, buy a vehicle or expensive toy, go back to school, get plastic surgery, switch churches, move away, or in some way try to live out a better story. You’ve probably tried it, I know I have.

Maybe a person gets into religion, or he gets away from it. Maybe they start to need anti-depressants or anti-anxeity medication. Some abuse substances or live more dangerously. Something just seems wrong–and one tries to fix it.

Plenty of the time, these efforts do bring some distraction and change, and therefore a certain kind of freedom or renewal is felt (at least for a bit); but down deep, nothing important has changed at all. After a little while, the person still feels frustrated or undone. (Or something else unpleasant.) The channel may have changed, but what is lived out is just a Spin-off of “The Show About Me”. Sadly, very few fully realize that their perceptive, and how they live out reality, is fairly the same even after a massive change. The same troubles will assail them, in some way. However, the baggage gets heavier.

Our Creator is the true center of the Show (not us). The Supreme Being is irresistibly calling out, wooing us, and our thirst deepens.

It’s a fact that when a person is too dehydrated they may actually stop craving what they truly need-water/hydration and replenishment of nutrients. They may feel tired, ill, hungry, or numb, instead of thirsty. In an ironic twist, the person doesn’t desire what will make them healthy again. It’s a perilous situation. Without help, people die this way.

This kind of confusion happens spiritually too. Often, in fact. A common (household) term often used for what turns out to be a spiritual problem like this is most often called a “midlife crisis” or sometimes an “identity crisis.” It’s common for people to get a point where they need to “find themselves,” or re-define themselves, sometimes multiple times throughout one’s life. This “want to” to change is healthy, though many times misread. An identity shift like this may happen once or several times in one’s life where a person tries hard to better one’s circumstances, and find relief.

If you haven’t enter a stage like this yourself, I’m sure you can think of someone who has. For instance, in the last 18 months seven marriages at our church have spun out of control or failed. I believe a misunderstanding of this spiritual opportunity is a big reason why.

What must happen to be truly free, and on a full path to growth? Something more like a walk has to happen rather than a small show we create. A walk with God and changing one’s perspective to surrender to God and “his” Big Show (the authentic one “Reality”) is a path few take, or attempt for all that long. It just isn’t a simple or smooth road. It is a mysterious, sometimes troubling one, where the answers are rarely simple or pat. This is the path of faith (believing in what you can’t see, but still know is quite real). Sometimes changing the channel, multiple times, seems like the only sensible thing to do. The negative part is that we only get more of the same when we do that. It’s still our story we want to control, and our story stays small and frustrating.

As many who have done the enormous personal work to recover from drugs or alcohol can attest, one usually has to hit “rock bottom,” (or be fully ready), before surrender to a new, and bigger Show occurs (a life centered in God’s Reality). It all starts by doing something very rare and counter-intuitive. It’s something we all fear: Losing control and Humbly yielding to the Higher Power, and admitting that without grace, and true dependence on God and others, a better way cannot be possible. Perhaps the scripture comes to mind, …”if you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. But if you lose your life (yourself) for my sake, you will find it…”

In contrast, we wish to be self-made.… yet, only a small show about “me” is self-made. Transformation, growth, and sturdy happiness (joy) comes instead through the bravery of surrender to the greater Reality, and taking the more treacherous but rewarding path that comes with this decision.

In part III installment on this topic, I’ll mention some things that happen once this pivotal choice is made. A person’s attitude and outlook change; and how one orders one’s life undergoes critical and unavoidable development with radical shifts in thinking, acting, and relating to others–for the better! We’re talking here about spiritual formation.

I’ll describe that a bit more, soon, in part III. Check back in the next few days and see.

This is a lot to chew on, especially if this is a new concept, and you’ve never encountered these ideas before. Some people call it “being born again”…. and in a real sense, a new life starts for the person who is ready: A whole new life begins.

…to be continued…

Reflections questions:

Have I been living my own small story?

Have I longed for a richer life, but have really only being encountering re-runs or spin offs of a short-changed Show?

What is stopping me from walking a new life?

What are your responses, insights, or thoughts on this topic?

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